Child Custody in a Michigan Divorce: What Are The Deciding Factors? (Part 3)

How does the court determine who gets custody?

Hello there and welcome back to our discussion about child custody in Michigan, and the 12 factors that the court considers when determining how to assign custody to divorcing parents. In the previous articles we’ve already discussed the first eight items on the list. Moving forward, we are going to look at the last four items.

However, we would once again like to remind our readers that while these 12 deciding factors are all considered to be important by the court, not every factor is considered in every case. Also, although the court is required to consider every factor, it’s very important to understand that not all factors are applicable in every case. For example, for families where mental illness is not an issue, number seven on the list would not be taken into account.

  • The reasonable preference of the child if the court considers the child to be of sufficient age to express a preference.

This is a very sensitive issue, and it is up to the court to decide whether or not a child is old enough to express a preference regarding who they would like to live with. There is no legally fixed age in Michigan at which a child can decide where they want to live. In certain previous cases, children as young as 6 years old have been considered mature enough, while in others, 12 year olds have not been considered mature enough to express an opinion. If the child does share an opinion with the court, what they say will not be shared with anyone, including attorneys or parents.

  • The willingness and ability of each of the parties to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent/child relationship between the child and the other parent or the child and the parents.

A judge looks at which parent is more likely to attempt to facilitate an ongoing relationship between the child and the other parent. Parents who are openly resistant to visitation with the other parent, or who have been accused of alienating the other parent may not be deemed fit for primary custody. Also, issues like “bad-mouthing” the other parent, or criticizing them in front of the child are considered by the court. Parents who are willing to work with the other parent to maintain relationships with both parents will have a far better shot at custody.

  • Domestic violence – regardless of whether the violence was directed against or witnessed by the child.

Is there a history of violence or domestic abuse in the home? If so, this could seriously affect which parent is granted custody, and whether or not a parent is granted anything more than supervised visits by the court. The court will look at all police reports, arrest records and domestic violence convictions in determining this factor. They may also consider the testimony of a parent who was victimized, and any witnesses who may support this testimony.

  • Any other factor considered by the court to be relevant to a particular child custody dispute.

Here the judge looks at any remaining issues that weren’t addressed by the previous eleven factors. For example, does the child have any physical or mental disabilities that one parent is better equipped to handle? Is there a chance of siblings being separated? Are there new spouses or partners in either parent’s life that may affect the child in some way? Any and all factors that may influence the child’s life in the future will be taken into account and weighed against what is in the best interest of the child.

We hope this breakdown was helpful for you, and provided some insight into how the court determines child custody during a dispute. If you have any other questions about child custody in Michigan, or need help during your custody battle, please contact us at 517 866 1000. An attorney is available to discuss your case at all times, day or night, including on weekends and holidays. The experienced attorneys at The Kronzek Firm have spent decades helping mid-Michigan families. We can help you too.